Ranking Potential Shohei Ohtani Landing Spots Amid Trade Rumors

Zachary D. RymerJuly 26, 2022

Ranking Potential Shohei Ohtani Landing Spots Amid Trade Rumors

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    Shohei Ohtani, otherwise known as the best two-way player in the history of Major League Baseball, isn't yet officially on the trading block.

    But since Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported Sunday that rival teams are nonetheless calling the Los Angeles Angels about Ohtani, can anyone blame us for wanting to speculate on where he might be on the other side of the Aug. 2 deadline?

    As the Angels (40-56) careen toward a seventh straight losing season, speculation had already been building about the possibility of them cashing in the 2021 American League MVP. As Mark Feinsand of MLB.com wrote on July 21, "this might be the highest Ohtani’s value will ever be."

    Ohtani is under club control through 2023, and he's presently as dominant as he's ever been on both sides of the ball. Since June 9, the 28-year-old has a .941 OPS and nine home runs as a hitter and a 1.57 ERA with 69 strikeouts in 46 innings as a pitcher.

    As Rosenthal wrote, just because teams are calling about Ohtani doesn't mean that the Angels are actively shopping him. Another obstacle in prying him loose is the mindset of owner Arte Moreno, who purportedly likes "bright shiny objects" and "doesn't want to be vilified more" by the Angels' already jaded fanbase.

    And yet, Rosenthal's sources also told him the Angels could be swayed by an offer based around "established major leaguers." Not prospects, in other words, which makes any potential Ohtani sweepstakes a bit more complicated than the ongoing sweepstakes for Washington Nationals superstar Juan Soto.

    All the same, we figure that at least half the league could conceivably make a play for Ohtani. Here's how we rank them as suitors, starting with short blurbs for 10 apparent long shots and finishing with longer blurbs for five teams that might actually have a chance.

15-11: Astros, Mariners, Dodgers, Giants and Brewers

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    15. Houston Astros

    Record: 64-33, 1st in AL West

    Even if the Angels liked the idea of getting their hands on, say, shortstop Jeremy Pena, it's hard to imagine Moreno green-lighting a trade of Ohtani to the Angels' most prominent rival within the American League West.

    14. Seattle Mariners

    Record: 52-45, 2nd in AL West

    Dealing with the Mariners is perhaps more palatable than dealing with the Astros, especially if Seattle were willing to listen on ascendant rookie Julio Rodriguez or Logan Gilbert. Fat chance of that, though, and the AL West caveat likewise applies.

    13. Los Angeles Dodgers

    Record: 64-31, 1st in NL West

    The Dodgers, who could dangle Gavin Lux or Tony Gonsolin for Ohtani, at least have the advantage of not sharing the AL West with the Angels. But would Moreno really trade Ohtani to Southern California's richer, more storied and indeed more successful franchise? We think not.

    12. San Francisco Giants

    Record: 48-48, 3rd in NL West

    If Moreno instead wanted to troll the Dodgers, he could do worse than sending Ohtani to the Boys in Blue's most storied rivals. Yet apart from right-hander Logan Webb, the Giants are short on established, controllable players to entice the Angels. And after a 107-win season in 2021, their contention window has become more uncertain this season.

    11. Milwaukee Brewers

    Record: 53-44, 1st in NL Central

    Unlike the Giants, the Brewers clearly have a win-now window. They could also very much use Ohtani's bat in their hit-or-miss lineup and his arm in a starting rotation that hasn't been as effective as it was in 2021. But unless they're going to offer up Corbin Burnes, they're likewise short on major league pieces who could satisfy the Angels.

10-6: White Sox, Guardians, Twins, Yankees and Mets

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    10. Chicago White Sox

    Record: 48-48, 3rd in AL Central

    The White Sox are right on that line where they could buy or sell at the trade deadline, but they're going to need left-handed power and pitching depth if they ultimately choose the former. Ohtani would check both boxes, and the White Sox could conceivably offer up some combination of Michael Kopech, Eloy Jimenez and Andrew Vaughn to make it happen.

    9. Cleveland Guardians

    Record: 48-47, 2nd in AL Central

    The Guardians badly need another offensive force to support Jose Ramirez, as well as a top-of-the-rotation hurler to fill the ace role that Shane Bieber has struggled to play in 2022. The club's financial constraints are a potential barrier, but it does have guys like infielder Andres Gimenez and right-hander Triston McKenzie with which to barter if it decides to go all-out.

    8. Minnesota Twins

    Record: 52-44, 1st in AL Central

    Ohtani would be the ace the Twins need, as well as another slugger to line up next to Byron Buxton and Carlos Correa. And since the latter may be one and done in Minnesota, there's pressure on the team to make the most of 2022. But unless they're going to offer second baseman Luis Arraez or right-hander Joe Ryan, there might not be a deal to be made here.

    7. New York Yankees

    Record: 66-31, 1st in AL East

    Ohtani hitting alongside Aaron Judge and pitching in tandem with Gerrit Cole? Mercy. If only the Yankees had more pieces to spare from their major league roster. Gleyber Torres, maybe, but a top-heavy farm system headlined by shortstop Anthony Volpe and outfielder Jasson Dominguez contains the team's best trade chips.

    6. New York Mets

    Record: 59-37, 1st in NL East

    Ohtani is just the guy the Mets need to deepen their offense around Pete Alonso and their starting rotation under Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom, who's nearing his return from a shoulder injury. But unless the Angels are fine with taking back catcher Francisco Alvarez, who is MLB.com's No. 2 prospect, it's hard to see a workable deal here.

5. Tampa Bay Rays

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    Record: 52-44, 3rd in AL East

    Why Ohtani Fits Here

    The Tampa Bay Rays have hit just 88 home runs, putting them squarely in the bottom third of MLB. And this is even though they've had 17 different players go deep, which speaks to how drastically they could use a big bopper of Ohtani's magnitude.

    Though Rays starters rank fourth in the majors with a 3.39 ERA, that's over a league-low 440.1 innings. Ohtani is good for about six innings whenever he takes the hill, so he'd be helpful at least in that respect.

    There's also, you know, the prospect of pairing him with AL All-Star starter and Cy Young Award hopeful Shane McClanahan. Particularly within short series in October, the two of them would make for a nightmare 1-2 punch.

    But Is There a Workable Trade Here?

    There's typically a question of financials whenever a star player fits the Rays on paper. Perhaps not in this case, however. No matter how much Ohtani makes in his final trip through arbitration in 2023, he's already locked in for just $5.5 million this season.

    Concerning what the Rays could give up for him, Wander Franco would presumably be the only untouchable piece among their wares. They could otherwise direct the Angels' attention toward Randy Arozarena or Brandon Lowe and hope that the counteroffer isn't for young pitching. Save for McClanahan, the Rays aren't very well-stocked on that shelf right now.

4. Atlanta

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    Record: 58-40, 2nd in NL East

    Why Ohtani Fits Here

    We would claim to be originators of the idea of Ohtani joining the reigning World Series champions, but MLB Network's Dan Plesac offered it up first on Thursday:

    MLB Network @MLBNetwork

    The reigning AL MVP to the reigning World Series champs?!?!<a href="https://twitter.com/Plesac19?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Plesac19</a> has a BOLD Shohei Ohtani prediction for the upcoming Trade Deadline 👀 <a href="https://t.co/n7WNewZh7X">pic.twitter.com/n7WNewZh7X</a>

    Though Atlanta's 151 home runs are second to only the Yankees in all of MLB, just 33 of those have come from the left side of the plate. Ohtani would be a lineup-balancer in this respect, and there's even room for him now that Adam Duvall's season-ending wrist surgery will require Marcell Ozuna to spend more time in left field and less time at designated hitter.

    Atlanta needs Ohtani just as strongly on the mound. Whereas Max Fried, Kyle Wright and Spencer Strider have pitched to a 2.93 ERA in 49 total starts, the club's other starters have just a 5.21 ERA between them.

    But Is There a Workable Trade Here?

    It might help that there's some connective tissue between the Atlanta and Los Angeles front offices. Angels general manager Perry Minasian worked under GM Alex Anthopoulos in Atlanta before he took the Anaheim job in 2020.

    The question, though, is what Atlanta would be willing to spare. Rather than a buy-low maneuver on Ian Anderson, Minasian could instead push for guys like William Contreras, Michael Harris, Wright, Strider and Austin Riley in exchange for Ohtani. Perhaps save for Contreras, Atlanta arguably doesn't have the depth to consider any of those guys truly expendable.

3. Toronto Blue Jays

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    Steph Chambers/Getty Images

    Record: 53-43, 2nd in AL East

    Why Ohtani Fits Here

    The Toronto Blue Jays haven't been the juggernaut they were expected to be after a 91-win season in 2021. They have been making progress of late, though, and it's hard to imagine a more perfect addition for them than Ohtani.

    For their offense, he'd be the left-handed power threat they sorely need to balance out their lineup. Consider their home run ranks since the start of last season:

    Now that Jose Berrios has found his stride with a 3.09 ERA in July, the Blue Jays have less of a need for Ohtani as a co-ace alongside Kevin Gausman and Alek Manoah. They would nonetheless be wise to abide by the adage that you can never have too much pitching, particularly given that Hyun Jin Ryu (Tommy John surgery) isn't walking through that door.

    But Is There a Workable Trade Here?

    There's been no greater sore spot in Anaheim in recent years than starting pitching, so one has to figure Manoah would be the first name on Minasian's list if the Blue Jays call about Ohtani.

    If the Blue Jays were to deem the All-Star righty untouchable, they could instead appeal to the Angels' weakness at shortstop by offering Bo Bichette. They also have a surplus of catchers, including Alejandro Kirk. A hard duo to give up, to be sure, but there's only one Ohtani, and Santiago Espinal and top prospect Gabriel Moreno could fill those vacated spots.

2. St. Louis Cardinals

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    Record: 51-46, 2nd in NL Central

    Why Ohtani Fits Here

    As Jon Heyman and Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported, the St. Louis Cardinals have emerged as an early favorite for Soto. We'll get to why that is in a moment, but it's certainly easy to see why the Cardinals would want the wunderkind.

    Namely, they're much like the Blue Jays in that they sure could use a left-handed-hitting slugger. Their 58 home runs from the left side since last year are the second-fewest in baseball.

    Meanwhile on the mound, the Cardinals need warm bodies for a starting rotation in which Adam Wainwright, Miles Mikolas and Andre Pallante are the only healthy members right now. Far from just a warm body, Ohtani would be the best choice to start Game 1 of a playoff series for the Cardinals if he came to St. Louis.

    But Is There a Workable Trade Here?

    The Cardinals are a front-runner for Soto precisely because of their sheer wealth of young talent. Even setting aside Jordan Walker and the rest of their excellent farm system, their major league currency includes outfielders Dylan Carlson and Brendan Donovan, infielders Tommy Edman and Nolan Gorman and slugger Juan Yepez.

    Edman and Gorman could be especially appealing to the Angels on account of how weak the middle of their infield is right now. And as much as it would hurt the Cardinals to lose both guys, they could perhaps be willing to live with Edmundo Sosa and Paul DeJong in between Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt.

1. San Diego Padres

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    Record: 54-44, 2nd in NL West

    Why Ohtani Fits Here

    Never mind what side of the plate it's coming from. The San Diego Padres just plain need power, as their 81 home runs rank 25th in the majors.

    This is one area where Ohtani can help, and the Padres could specifically plan to pencil him in between Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. come October. Put another way, the 2021 AL MVP would suddenly be batting between two hitters with five top-five MVP finishes between them.

    The Padres also need Ohtani's presence on the mound, where things have been a little dicey outside of Cy Young Award contender Joe Musgrove. It would also be a nice bonus for Ohtani that he would get to join forces with Yu Darvish, who he once said was his "favorite pitcher" while growing up in Japan.

    But Is There a Workable Trade Here?

    Padres GM A.J. Preller is fond of making big splashes, so it was no surprise when ESPN's Buster Olney reported Saturday that rival executives see San Diego as "perhaps the most motivated team in the trade market."

    If Preller were to turn his attention to Ohtani, he could offer the Angels 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell as a reclamation project and pile on from there. For instance, with some combination of All-Star infielder Jake Cronenworth, Gold Glove center fielder Trent Grisham, well-regarded lefty MacKenzie Gore (health permitting) and now-former top prospect C.J. Abrams.

    The Padres wouldn't necessarily miss any of those guys in the short term, which of course is the very time period they would be all-in on if they traded for Ohtani.

    Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Savant.


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